(AN: I am so distracted by Octopath Traveler right now….)
In the dark artificial forest, the sounds of two blades clashing rang through the air. The sounds would happen irregularly. Sometimes in quick succession, at others with long pauses of silence.
He had tried to understand how it led to this. She wanted a duel. And she wanted to win in order to marry him. He couldn’t figure out how she was led to this conclusion. Only just before this duel started. He had asked what would happen if he refused. She answered back that it was like stepping on her honor by refusing.
His mother had warned him not to make decisions lightly, especially when subjects of honor were concerned. Unable to find a serious reason to refuse, he accepted the duel. His hope now that he could win the duel and this would be over.
He had been very wrong. The moment the duel started, Xiuying began her assault on him and had immediately forced him on the defensive. Due to her martial arts style, and occasionally switching to another, it was difficult for him to get his bearing. There were many times he thought she only attack once. Instead he would be attack several more times without pause. Although, she primarily attacked with her jian, she mixed in kicks and her free arm as well.
With her unpredictability in movements and attacks, the best he could do was block or dodge. He had to keep his concentration on her and hope there was some opening. But every opening he found was short lived. It was not like he was holding back against her. Rather she never gave him the opportunity to exert his abilities by constantly attacking.
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She was excited. For a long time, she hadn’t felt this kind of excitement. In most of her duels that had been instigated by her brother, the men she fought were easily defeated. They were men who aspired to be her husband, though their skills were greatly lacking. She desired a husband who was her equal.
This was why she was excited. The boy before her was dodging and blocking her attacks. He moved with minor movements and only blocked when he deemed necessary. Even with her unpredictable movements and attacks. He could still keep up with it. Unlike the suitors who challenged her, he was on another level. She saw his eyes solely focused on her.
Her heart raced as she gazed into his eyes, a smile on her face as she continued to attack him over and over. She could tell that he was able to answer her. However, she did not want to let go of her lead. A single thought entered her mind, making her unconsciously smile even more beautifully. She wanted this time to last as long as possible. And to win.
◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ◊
The two had continued this deadly dance. Their attention solely on one another. Unaware of the shadows that slowly came around them.
A thrust here, followed by a high kick. A thrust that was actually a feint, slashing with the blade almost immediately after. A low kick to force a shift in footing. Followed by a series of thrusts. Unpredictable, and slowly turned into a situation where the sounds of clashing blades was heard no more.
The two realized already why. He knew his blade couldn’t handle any more. As he had been defending his whole time, his katana had taken more and more damage. Chips and cracks had formed all over, the blade was not going to last. He had hoped she would stop, but her excitement had taken over her. She continued to assault him with her unpredictable assault. The ever-changing flow of attacks was fluid like water. All he could do now was dodge even more.
She felt her victory was at hand, sooner or later he would lose to her. The thought of her winning this duel put her mind on a high. She didn’t realize that he was distracted. His eyes occasionally looked away from her. Then her gaze caught him slipping. An opportunity came for her. She quickly did a sword thrust with her jian, aiming for his stomach.
His left arm was opened wide, as if to embrace her. She didn’t understand the reason for it. She tried to stop, but he moved towards her when he noticed that. The blade pierced her target. Her eyes widened as to why he purposely did that. She looked at him, wanting to question his actions. Although he was in pain, his eyes were glaring. Not at her, but something behind her. She followed his line of sight and finally noticed his katana had pierced the space to her left without her noticing. The blade covered in blood. She turned around more and saw a dead demon. Its head was pierced between the eyes. From the looks of it, it had tried to attack her from behind. Aiming for her neck with its fangs. She realized that he purposely stabbed himself with her jian and attacked the demon to protect her.
Before she could finish, his left arm grabbed hold of her tightly and pulled her closer to him. He forced a jump and spun them while in the air. Blood flew into the air, a new wound had appeared on him. His right shoulder had taken a wound from something. He was fighting back screaming in pain. She panicked and thought about why he was doing this. Before realizing there was still another demon close by. She turned her gaze.
And her eyes widened at what she saw. It was the dead demon from just a moment ago. It had attacked them again even though it had been stabbed in the head. No, the wound is gone. She thought as she saw that there was no stab wound. She didn’t know what that meant. But she was in a bad position. He was embracing her and in pain, while she could not move him away. They were easy targets.
“Get the demon!”
Several men in suits could be heard yelling as they charged the demon with weapons in hands. But before any of them could approach, the demon disinterestedly backhanded them away. Sending the men flying, and crashing into the ground. Just as it turned its attention back to the two again, two kunai flew through the air. Striking the demon in its eyes, it screamed loudly in pain.
A shadow came and landed next to the two. It was a woman whose hair blended with the darkness, only half her face visible. A crimson eye looking panicked as she saw the situation.
“H-Hayate-sama. Are you alright?! Please say something!”
Being helped up, Xiuying’s jian finally was removed from his stomach. He nearly screamed out feeling the cold blade exit his body, causing more pain. With an eye closed, he looked directly at the demon that was there. His breathing was ragged, he had two serious wounds both bleeding. His vision was starting to blur.
“We…have to kill it…I…can feel….there is something special…about this demon…”
The pain from both wounds was affecting his speech. He took several ragged breaths.
“I have to use it….Xiuying….When…I am done….find that special….thing and destroy it.”
“You can’t, Hayate-sama! You’re injured! We will take care of this!”
The woman, Fuumi was objecting out of concern.
His voice filled with an anger that came from nowhere. He moved his body forward, showing the two his back. His open eye still glaring at the demon. For some reason, his eye began glowing in an eerie blue light for a moment.
“This one cannot be….allowed to live! It will…keep coming back to life!”
His right arm hung uselessly. Taking hold of his katana with this left hand, he looked at it and quietly apologized. He crossed his left arm over his right shoulder. The katana began to bathed in an azure flame. With both eyes now opened, he glared at the demon who was still suffering. The demon was still recovering, the eyes that had been pierced had started to regenerate. He had to take care of it now.
“Kanzaki-ryu Saishuu Ougi…” (Kanzaki-Style Ultimate Technique…)
He concentrated Spiritual Power in to his blade, the azure flame burned brighter and brighter.
“…Shin Hiryū Issen!” (…True Flying Dragon Flash!)
He disappeared. The demon suddenly split into many pieces. The ground around it seemed to throw dirt into the air as well. And a moment later, his body appeared again only to tumble at the end. Having collapsed like a puppet with its strings cut, he didn’t move after hitting the ground. However, their attention was on the demon that had been split into many pieces. They looked for a sign. There, in their vision was a piece of broken metal pierced some kind of large red crystal.
Xiuying went after the crystal, Fuumi dashed towards Hayate. Xiuying did not let this opportunity go one bit. With her jian, she slashed the crystal, cutting it in half. Some kind of unnatural groan of pain was heard before it was silenced. The crystal lost shape and turned to dust. For a long while, she watched the demon remains and nothing happened. It was finally dead.
She turned her attention back to Hayate. Her gaze filled with worry, regret, and a single feeling she had not felt before.
“Hayate-sama!…Please wake up! Hayate-sama!”
Fuumi was crying as she tried to wake him up. Despite her attempts, he didn’t wake up no matter how hard she tried.
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Waking up in a familiar white room. She quietly got up, her shoulder and stomach sore. She touched the bandages through her clothes.
“You’re awake. Are you feeling alright?”
“I feel fine…Dr. Yumizuka, did you heal my wounds?”
“No, your body was already healed up by the time you came here. Tell me what happened.”
Hayate recounted what happened during the hunt.
“You used that? Is your body fine.”
“No…It hurts to sit up like this.”
“Lie back down. I’ll call her and get a wheelchair for you.”
“Thank you, Dr. Yumizuka.”
“You’re my best friend’s kid. Don’t worry about it.”
While she lay on the bed, her thoughts were thinking about what happened afterward. If she was here, did that mean the demon was killed? She needed to talk to certain people. The sound of feet could be heard running, getting louder and closer. The door opened and it was someone she knew.
It was Fuumi, Hayate quietly smiled sadly thinking she had worried her. Though she noticed that Fuumi was not wearing her usual suit. She was dressed in a rather risqué maid outfit that exposed quite a bit of skin. She already knew the culprit behind this.
“I am okay, Fuumi.”
“Please…don’t ever do that again. Ha-chan…please…”
Fuumi kneeled before Hayate’s bed and looked like she was crying. Hayate couldn’t help but smile wryly. It had been a long time she was called that. Their relationship was childhood friends at first, but once their positions were also added, it complicated matters greatly. With etiquette and protocol often getting in the way, they rarely had a chance to address each other like they did as children.
“I am sorry, Fuu-chan…I had no choice. That demon could not be allowed to live. Was it killed successfully?”
“Yes…the other Demon Hunter finished it off.”
“I see…that is good. Can you tell me what happened?”
Fuumi recounted what she could. Due to taking too long during the hunt. Fuumi and a number of Hayate’s guard went searching. Hearing sounds of a duel, they came to look. They had seen the duel progressing as it was and came to their side as a demon launched a surprise attack. When Hayate was injured protecting Xiuying, several of the guard charged in to fight. However, their efforts were in vain as they were easily knocked away. They suffered injuries and were being looked at a hospital associated with the Kanzaki family.
When the demon was killed, Xiuying had tried to help but was forcefully taken away by another group, composing of all women. She yelled out complaints at the women while it happened. Fuumi and several of the uninjured men carried Hayate to safety and used first aid to try and stop the bleeding. Desperately they called for transportation and brought Hayate back to where she was now.
“I see…they did get hurt too. I did not want them to…I must thank them later.”
She was frustrated that she allowed her own guard to get hurt fighting a demon. They had some talent as Demon Hunters but they were nowhere at the level to hunt them. Fuumi, who also led them, was similar. Except she also had another occupation that was still hidden from others.
She understood the situation. Then she turned to Fuumi.
“…Hatsuko-sama ordered me to wear this as punishment.”
She could see Fuumi blushing. Seeing her struggle to cover as much skin as possible. Because of the hidden occupation of being a ninja, Fuumi hated clothes that exposed skin. It was also an occupational disease that was ingrained into her to cover as much skin as possible. Hayate gave up on complimenting it, she already knew Fuumi hated it.
“How long was I asleep?”
“Only for the night.”
“I thought I would be unconscious for longer…”
What is going on with my body? Ever since then my body has been healing at such an absurd rate. Even with Spiritual Power aiding natural healing, this rate is much too fast. Her thoughts were on how there were many strange things. The sudden increase in demon appearances. What did it exactly mean? Even last night, the coordination she saw was unlike what she had been taught or experienced until now. She couldn’t help but feel worried about the near future. A particular feeling she had been having for a long time since a few weeks ago was getting worse.